Kevin Bae

Non-Social in a Socially Networked World

Victimhood is the latest trend and half-breeds like me want in

Half Asian me and full Labrador Godfrey

I read this opinion column in the Chicago Tribune this morning and it sickened me quite a bit. It seems people that are half in and half out of an ethnicity are the Rodney Dangerfields of race. We get no respect. But, honestly, why in the world do half-breeds care? Why in the world do you want to start out in life as a victim by default.

The girl writing the piece is a sophomore in high school. Not just any high school though. She goes to the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. I lived in the Chicago area for the last 53 of my 54 years and I never heard of it. From the wiki description it seems like an exclusive elite school. One thing I know is part of their curriculum is Victimhood 101. It has to be. Otherwise how can someone so young already feel as if whitey is out to get them? Sometimes people have so many advantages they need to create their own adversity.

The challenges we face are growing, not going away. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, nearly half of all multiracial Americans were under 18 years old. A whole generation of children are experiencing racism this nation does not see, and even their parents cannot relate to.

Chicago Tribune

I like to talk about this subject specifically because I’m half Caucasian and half Asian. I was mixed race before it was cool. I’m the original multi-culti guy. When I was growing up in Chicago my family was the ONLY family in the phone book with the last name Bae. Even though the United States was not far removed from the Korean War and Vietnam was the war du jour most people I ran into didn’t know where Korea was or what a Korean person was. Hell, to be honest I didn’t know where Korea was either. My father was not very good at teaching us anything about Korea or Korean culture. He was far more busy working building his American Dream.

My mother, who is of the dreaded Caucasian persuasion, likes to the story about riding the bus in 1963 with my father and older brother people would crane their necks to see the baby looked like. There weren’t many interracial couples back then in Chicago so it was a natural curiosity. When I was growing up in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s people used to ask me all the time, “where are you from?”, or “what’s your nationality?” I never took offense to it. It was obvious from talking to me that I was from Chicago and I’m an American. What they were wondering is what was my ethnic makeup. It’s natural when it’s not obvious.

I don’t look Korean or White. At least in my opinion. And over the course of my life I’ve determined that I look more Native American than anything else. My older brother definitely looks more Korean than I do. Why do I know that? Because his eyes are slantier. That’s right… I said it. But apparently that is supposed to be offensive as if we all don’t know Asians have slanted eyes. Hello!! It’s a feature of the Asian face. It stares right back at you.

A few weeks ago, I was excitedly, nervously talking with my friends about the fact that in just a year we’ll have our driver’s licenses. Then a boy on the other side of the cafeteria shouted at me: “How are you going to see the road through those eyes?” I told him it wasn’t funny. I told him it was racist. But after that moment, I felt utterly alone. That’s the experience of being a multiracial kid in America.

Chicago Tribune

This poor girl feels “utterly alone.” Give me a break. Does anyone honestly think it was less racist when I was growing up than now? Is joking about a person’s slanted eyes racist? I don’t think so. I also have a brother and sister that are full Korean from my father’s second marriage. I used to tease my sister all the time because she has tiny eyes. Was I being racist or just an older brother making fun of his sister?

My favorite author, Peter Ho Davies, writes that a Chinese-American biracial individual’s experience is not that of the two identities on either side of the hyphen; instead, it is the hyphen itself. “In their various ways, they feel themselves to be insufficiently Chinese or insufficiently American. That’s a tragedy if you think the choice is either/or. But I’d argue that there’s a third alternative, that’s equally authentic.”

Chicago Tribune

In the United States the only identity you need to be concerned about is being American. Hyphenating yourself is just plain stupid and irrelevant. I don’t call myself a Korean-American or a Korean-Caucasian-American. I’m an American God damn it. If anything, people that are half one race and half another, should know better than anyone else that race is just a figment of our imaginations. It’s a way to differentiate between people that look different or come from different places. That’s it. It’s no more and no less. We’re all human on the inside.

I’ll tell a little secret (it’s not really a secret). When I was growing up the people showed more racism towards me were Korean people. Culturally they did not take to someone that was only half. It was like I was muddying the water. But it wasn’t all Korean people and it was the 1960’s and 1970’s. Different attitudes for different times. I didn’t let it taint me. I know a lot of really nice Korean people that treated me just like anyone else.

There is no need to jump on the race victim bandwagon. This trend is not one to join. When you’re a mixed race, race as a concept ceases to exist at that point. If anything you’re of mixed culture rather than race. My Korean side has a far different culture than the White side that was born and raised in Chicago.

Society must recognize that multiracial people cannot be shoehorned into a single box, nor can they be expected to check all the boxes. It must stop taking one look at me, note my Chinese features, disregard my Jewish insides and decide to hate me. Identity runs much deeper than what’s visible on the surface. We must call greater attention to our nation’s third alternative, our hyphen. Our identity is complex. It’s not binary. It’s multilayered. And, it’s perfectly imperfectly mixed.

Chicago Tribune

Let me end my rant with this. I don’t give a rats ass what society thinks about me or my multiracial heritage. I don’t care about racial identities. I don’t care if I look Mexican to some or Native American to others. Identity is not complex. It’s pretty simple. I’m a human American. That’s my species and country of origin. End of story.